WTA Finals Preview: National Pride And No.1 Ranking At Stake For The Women’s Elite - UBITENNIS
Connect with us

Focus

WTA Finals Preview: National Pride And No.1 Ranking At Stake For The Women’s Elite

Published

on

The 2017 WTA Finals eight players (zimbio.com)

For the fourth consecutive year the best players in the world will descend upon Singapore to play in the season-ending WTA Finals.

The eight highest scoring players on the tour this season will grace their presence in the round-robin tournament, which has a prize money pool of $7 million. Those eight have been split into two groups, called red and white. The top two players in each group will then progress to the semifinals.

Unlike previous years, seven out of the eight participants have the ability to end 2017 as world No.1. France’s Caroline Garcia is the only exception. Furthermore, five players are aiming to be the first from their country to win the tournament. The five is made up of Simona Halep (Romania), Garbine Muguruza (Spain), Elina Svitolina (Ukraine), Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark) and Jelena Ostapenko (Latvia).

The Red Group

Embed from Getty Images

Current world No.1 Simona Halep will headline the red group. Until the past month, 2017 has been a case of always the bridesmaid and never the bride for the Romanian. Her consistency on the tour, illustrated by a win-loss of 46-15, has brought her close to the top spot on numerous occasions. At the French Open, she lead Ostapenko by a set and a break in the final before being denied her first grand slam and the No.1 ranking. It was a trend that continued to occur until she struck gold in Beijing in a somewhat fitting fashion. Getting revenge against Ostapenko to reach the final.

“Inside I can say that something has changed. I’m very happy about what I did. But outside is just normal, normal things. Nothing changes. It’s just I have to work harder to keep that (smiling). But I’m here just to enjoy the moment and we’ll see what is going to happen.” Halep told reporters about her rise to No.1.
“The dream came true. It is just the best feeling that I ever had in my tennis career. I’m just enjoying the moment. I cannot describe in words what I feel, but it’s a good feeling. I’m happy when I’m going to the courts now.”

Halep has reached five finals of the tour this season with her sole victory occurring in May when she defended her title at the Madrid Open.

Aiming to derail the top seed are three players that have previously scored wins over her at some point in their careers. Elina Svitolina has won more singles trophies (five so far) on the WTA Tour than anybody else this season, including two Premier 5 tournaments. She also owns the record of the longest streak on the tour this season with 15 consecutive wins. Against Halep, she has already defeated her twice this year.

“Of course I have lots of confidence. I mean, I won five tournaments this year. It was an amazing year for me. Lots of good memories. Hopefully it will continue in this tournament, as well. I’m looking forward to each challenge, you know, and it’s been an amazing year with so many good things.” Said Svitolina.
“Of course there have been some very disappointing losses, as well. For me, just the road to the top is never straight. It’s always with some curves (smiling).”

Making her fifth appearance, Caroline Wozniacki is eager to go deep in a tournament once again. The Dane had to settle for runner-up six consecutive times this season before prevailing at the Pan Pacific Open to win her 26th tour title. Despite being a former grand slam finalist and world No.1, 2017 is the first year she has managed to score 10 or more wins over top-10 players. Overall, she has won 55 matches this season, more than any other player in the tournament.

Hoping to capitalise on her previous WTA Finals experience, Wozniacki is aiming to reach the semifinal stage for the fourth time.

“”It’s a little bit of a different surface. I think if the balls hit through, they kind of skid through the court. If there is a bit more spin on it, the ball stops and it’s very slow. But I have played well here before, and I’m just excited for the challenge.” Wozniacki commented on the playing surface in Singapore.

Completing the group is 8th seed Garcia, who is one out of three players making their debut in the event. She secured her place with the help of a dream run in China. The 24-year-old is currently on a 11-match winning streak after claiming back-to-back titles in Wuhan and Beijing. In Beijing, she disposed of both Svitolina and Halep. Underlining her threat to the group. Earlier this year Garcia reached her first major quarter-final at the French Open before going out to Karolina Plisklova.

“I think it’s a great challenge for me. To improve, to learn a lot of things, to get experience to be ready for next year. Halep, Svitolina, Wozniacki are the best we can do in this kind of styles, and they will have to make me work from the baseline, try to be very aggressive, play with my shots. I can’t ask for a better match to play, for sure.” – Garcia.

Head-to-head

Halep Wozniacki Svitolina Garcia
Halep 2-3 2-2 2-1
Wozniacki 3-2 0-3 2-0
Svitolina 2-2 3-0 1-1
Garcia 1-2 0-2 1-1

The White Group

Embed from Getty Images

A mixture of old and new features in the quartet. Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza is the highest ranked player in the group. The Spaniard enjoyed a brief four-week spell as world No.1 before being dethroned. She heads into the draw winning 46 out of 65 matches played this season. On the tour, she clinched the Cincinnati Open title with a 6-0, 6-1, thrashing against Halep. Muguruza has also been named the WTA ‘s player of the year.

“At the beginning of the year I had a few injuries and I was a little bit sad because I felt like I worked so hard in the preseason I couldn’t really show it on the court.” Explained Muguruza.
“I didn’t drop my spirit. In the clay season, I was really motivated, and I just cleaned that and started strong at Wimbledon, thinking that my time was gonna come. After that, everything went well. And what I like the most, it’s like after winning a Grand Slam I could manage to maintain that level for a couple more tournaments and not just lose.”

Pliskova will make her second consecutive appearance in Singapore after crashing out in the round robin stages last year. Known for her fierce serve, she has won a trio of premier titles in 2017 (two on a hard-court and one on grass). So far she has defeated four top-10 players this season, including Muguruza on two occasions. The Czech has also managed to reach the quarter-finals or better at three out of the four majors. Her best season performance at the grand slams to date.

“I think my group [has] more aggressive-style players in the group and the other one is more defending. I just like to play better these players. I played all of them a few times. It’s not that I didn’t lose to them, but it’s just like I like better their style of the game.”

At the age of 20, Ostapenko is the youngest player to debut at the WTA Finals since Wozniacki back in 2010. She rose to the limelight following her fairytale run at the French Open. At Roland Garros, where she was unseeded, Ostapenko knocked out four seeded players to claim her first title of any sort. More recently, she triumphed at Korea Open. Winning 42 matches this season, the Latvian has the second-lowest amount of tour wins in the entire draw.

Finally, Venus Williams continues to prove the age is irrelevant. The 37-year-old made her finals debut back in 1999. Overall, she has played in the tournament four times, winning it in 2008. A lot has changed since then, but the American has managed to fight her way back to the top.

“Just the depth in the game. The competition is so much greater. It’s a beautiful change, in fact.” She reflected about the changes in the women’s game.

Despite winning no titles and only 34 matches in 2017, it has hard to rule out her chances. Twice this year, Williams has reached the final of a major. At the Australian Open she fell to sister Serena and then succumbed to Muguruza in Wimbledon. In the premier events, her best run was a semifinal appearence in Miami.

“They’re all pretty special,” Williams reflected about her appearances at the year-end event. “It’s the end of the year. Only Top 8 get here. It’s definitely something well earned.”

Williams is the third oldest player to qualify for the tour finals after 39-year-old Billie Jean King in 1983, and a 38-year-old Martina Navratilova in 1994.

Head-to-head

Muguruza Pliskova Ostapenko Williams
Muguruza 2-6 2-1 2-3
Pliskova 6-2 2-0 1-1
Ostapenko 1-2 0-2 0-1
Williams 3-2 1-1 1-0

Schedule of play

Date Session Day/Night Start of Session
Sunday
22 October
1 Night 5:00pm – Singles
NB 7.30pm – Singles
Monday
23 October
2 Night 7:30pm – Singles
FB – Singles
Tuesday
24 October
3 Night 7:30pm – Singles
FB – Singles
Wednesday
25 October
4 Night 7:30pm – Singles
FB – Singles
Thursday
26 October
5 Day 1:30pm – Doubles
NB 4:00pm – Singles
6 Night 7:30pm – Singles
FB – Doubles
Friday
27 October
7 Day 1:30pm – Doubles
NB 4:00pm – Singles
8 Night 7:30pm – Singles
FB – Doubles
Saturday
28 October
9 Day 1:30pm – Doubles Semi Final
NB 4:00pm – Singles Semi Final
10 Night 7:30pm – Singles Semi Final
FB – Doubles Semi Final
Sunday
29 October
11 Night 4:00pm – Doubles Final
NB 7:30pm – Singles Final

NOTE: Time according to Singapore timezone (GMT+8)

Focus

Statistical Deep Dive: Sinner At Rotterdam One Year Later

Jannik Sinner’s Rotterdam title compared with his run to the final last year.

Published

on

By

(@InteBNLdItalia - Twitter)

By Federico Bertelli

Let’s delve into Jannik Sinner’s triumphant journey at the ABN Amro Open and compare it with his 2023 campaign. Service and down-the-line backhands were the keys to victory.

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger. This is the version of Sinner that his opponents tasted, and it’s also the title of a Daft Punk song; the clip particularly reflects what the rest of the ATP circuit has been thinking about Jannik for some months now: an android emerging after a heavy upgrade. Jokes aside, as the sunshine double is about to start, we thought it wise to rewind and closely examine Sinner’s recent victories.

The focus of our analysis is the Rotterdam tournament: Sinner’s performance was spotless, a feat not seen since 2001 when Lleyton Hewitt, after his victory at Flushing Meadows over Pete Sampras, managed to repeat his success in Tokyo. If the Italian were to win next week under the California sun as well, he would be the first in ATP tennis history to win two consecutive ATP tournaments after the first Slam. But before we dive into the action of the Indian Wells, let’s scratch the surface of Sinner’s victory in the Netherlands a bit. The comparison is plausible as the Italian reached the final in both editions, playing 5 matches in each case.

Draw: The 2024 run was undoubtedly smoother compared to 2023, both on average and in absolute terms. In 2023, the average ranking of Sinner’s opponents increased significantly, from 50.6 in 2023 to 97 in 2024. This means that, in general, we can assume that the journey, at least on paper, was easier. Also, in absolute terms – considering the lowest ranking of an opponent faced – there was a notable difference. In 2023, the insurmountable obstacle was the Russian Medvedev, then the blue’s nemesis and number 3 in the rankings. In 2024, it was a more approachable De Minaur – number 11 in the ATP ranking – against whom the H2Hs have also always been in favour of Jannik.

Source, ATP data, ATP 500 Tournament Rotterdam: Comparison of Opposing Players’ Rankings

Break Points: One aspect frequently discussed about Sinner in the last 12 months is his overall growth in all areas: technical, physical, and mental. However, it’s not news that Jannik is mentally tough. Surely, Sinner will continue to tirelessly work on this aspect, as he has always stated, but his starting base has always been enviable. And the results are there for everyone to see. Despite facing a number of break points in the tournament equal to 20 in both 2023 and 2024 – which perhaps was unexpected given the more modest caliber of opponents – the Italian’s response was undeniable. An 80% break point save rate, compared to 65% in 2023 and against an ATP tour average of 61%. (Note: The tour average refers to the average of the last 52 weeks of players who have competed in ATP level tournaments). This figure, among other things, underscores Jannik’s solidity, already above average in 2023.

Source, ATP data, ATP 500 Tournament Rotterdam: Comparison of Break Points Saves, Years 2023-2024

Service – Overall Statistics: Another aspect that has been frequently discussed is Jannik’s improvement in his service game; indeed, the data speaks for itself. Both in terms of the percentage of first serves in play and in terms of effectiveness in converting such a play situation into a point, Sinner has significantly elevated his game. Working on the percentage of first serves in play was the number one priority to improve the Italian’s game performance, and the efforts of Vagnozzi, Cahill & co. have paid off handsomely. In 2023 in Rotterdam, the percentage of first serves in play was 57%, in line with the general performances recorded by Sinner up to that point. Considering that the ATP tour average was 62%, it’s clear this was an aspect still needing improvement until last year. However, the conversion rate from good became excellent. In 2023 in Rotterdam, the conversion rate of points on the first serve stood at 74%, a figure above the tour average, which is at 72%. In 2024, however, we witnessed a further leap forward, reaching the 80% threshold.

Source, ATP Data, ATP 500 Tournament Rotterdam: Service Performance Comparison

To understand how high this figure is, just look at the leaderboard rankings of the last 52 weeks. In terms of first serves converted into points, 80% is the threshold of absolute excellence. Consider that the two most impressive serving machines ever seen on a tennis court, Karlovic and Isner, had career averages of 83% and 80%, respectively.

ATP Leaderboard

Finally, a somewhat surprising data point is the success performance on the second serve. The Italian won 60% of the points on his second serve in 2023, while in 2024, “only” 56%. This rate is evidently more than sufficient to win matches and tournaments, but in 2023, it was not a problem at all, on the contrary.

Delving further into detail and referring to more detailed analyses (for the metrics used, we also refer to the general description found here), the analysis is further enriched. The data reported are the result of TennisViz processing, on data owned by Tennis Data Innovations (TDI).

Service – Detailed Data: The service performance, in terms of precision and reliability of the shot under pressure, has improved from all perspectives. Among the various metrics available, there are some of interest. Starting with the accuracy on the first serve, i.e., the distance with which the serve is placed from the service lines, measured in cm. Referencing a post from the X Tennis Insights account, we have an overview.

Source: TennisViz on TDI Data

In Rotterdam in 2023, Sinner executed this shot with an accuracy of 57 cm, better than what was measured over the course of the year. But in 2024, this figure impressively dropped to a notable 52 cm, in line with that of Hurkacz. We’ll spare you the statistical details, but the result (highly debatable, given the small sample size) is as follows.

Of course, there are many other variables that explain the yield on the first serve, but the inverse correlation between serve speed and precision is not bad, and generally leads us to say that serving at 125 mph with an accuracy of 52 cm, combined with an average quality in return shots, guarantees an untouchable performance of 80% of points won on the first serve. If the quality is that of Sinner’s serving machine, even less will suffice.

Continuing with the quality of the service shown by Sinner, another data point that deserves further exploration is that of unreturned serves, where the opponent fails to return the serve back into play. Here too, Jannik performed exceptionally well, with aces and opponents’ missed returns bringing home an impressive 40% in 2023 and an exceptional 42% in 2024. Remember, in tennis, variations of 1% can make the difference between a solid top ten player and a Grand Slam title winner. To put it in perspective, the ATP average is 38%.

Source: @Tennisinsight

Finally, to conclude the chapter on the serve, one last piece of data, which we’ve kept in reserve for the most deserving who have persisted in reading up to this point; do you know what the percentage of first serve balls on break points was in 2023? And in 2024? Well, we’ll present it to you in a table, and we’ll add nothing more:

Source: TenniViz on TDI Data

In 2023, when serving on break points, the first serve landed much less than usual in crucial moments. In 2024, however, the Italian did not lose his composure at all, serving as if it were any other point… not bad at all.

Performance in rallies: in this case, we rely on [metrics developed by TDI and TennisViz, which obviously carry the ATP brand](https://www.atptour.com/en/news/insights-introduction); (bonus: if you happen to watch a match on ATP TV, these advanced metrics are just a click away, in the stats section of the App).

Source: TenniViz on TDIData

It’s notable how Jannik has leveled up both in his ability to convert points where he had the advantage (conversion score) and in managing to seize the initiative from opponents when they were in a favorable position during the rally (steal score). Lastly, the final data point: from the baseline, with the current form of Jannik, it’s tough to come out on top, and if we consider his aptitude for turning defense into offense, the puzzle for his opponents is almost unsolvable. Indeed, this explains the overwhelming 56% of points won from the baseline, significantly above the ATP average. This data also finds an explanation in a significant tactical adjustment, the more pronounced use of the down-the-line backhand variation. The backhand crosscourt is already a comfort zone for Sinner, which he can comfortably use to extract points, like a boxer working his opponent with jabs; if we add that now Sinner is also able to find the down-the-line solution at the right moment, again, it spells trouble for his opponents. In 2023, Sinner hit 19.5% of his backhands down the line, while in 2024 this percentage rose to 31.4% in the Rotterdam tournament. A change that helped him tip the scale further in his favor in baseline battles.

Continue Reading

Focus

Juan Carlos Ferrero Remaining Positive Despite Carlos Alcaraz’s Poor Form

Juan Carlos Ferrero remains confident of Carlos Alcaraz’s abilities despite his poor form.

Published

on

@tennisnewsbrazil - Twitter)

Juan Carlos Ferrero is looking on the positive side despite Carlos Alcaraz’s poor form.

After winning Wimbledon last year, many people thought that Carlos Alcaraz would dominate the ATP tour over the next year.

However since then, Alcaraz has lost his world number one ranking with the Spaniard not winning a trophy since capturing his second Grand Slam title at SW19.

There are concerns that Alcaraz’s form is dipping with Jannik Sinner potentially overtaking him in potential to challenge Novak Djokovic at the big events.

Despite the lack of titles to Alcaraz’s name, there is no reason to worry for coach Juan Carlos Ferrero as he is confident that the Spaniard’s lack of form is normal, “He has been achieving good results,” Ferrero claimed in an interview with Marca.

“The Cincinnati tournament was a shame because we were one point away. At the US Open, he made the semi-finals. When you play with such good people, it is difficult to win every tournament.

“For any player, not winning tournaments can affect your confidence level. For very good players, it is important to achieve the results that one sets in their path. Of course Carlos wants to win, but I see him well, I don’t see him with any type of desire, and that is very important.

“He doesn’t have the stress of I want to win, I want to win. He wants to do things well and wants to improve in every aspect that he can, and at 20 years of age there are many. The objectives are there. Every tournament that goes, the objective is to achieve a good result.

“And if he is physically well, a great result for him is to win. When you have that level and that potential, it is not bad to think that. Then, when you don’t get it, you have to know how to manage it and come out just as motivated.”

Ferrero brings a great level of experience and composure to the Alcaraz team having been in the Spaniard’s position many times when he was a player.

The Spaniard’s experience is evident as he claimed that failure isn’t a bad thing for Alcaraz to go through, “Not every year you can win six or seven tournaments and that doesn’t mean it will be a failure,” Ferrero was quoted by tennis 365 as saying.

“[Michael] Jordan and Tiger [Woods] didn’t win every Grand Slam and every ring every year. We cannot call that a failure. There are many positive things in a year even if you have earned less.

“You may have evolved in aspects that can be useful for the future. That’s where we are. The most important thing is that he is happy, that he trains well, that traveling makes him happy and from there he generates good tennis, which is what he loves. We all agree on that.”

Alcaraz will look to return to his best when he looks to defend his title in Indian Wells which starts on the sixth of March.

Continue Reading

Focus

Daria Kasatkina And Alejandro Davidovich Fokina Lead Calls For VAR In Tennis

There have been calls for VAR to be introduced into the sport.

Published

on

(@LadiesOpenPA - Twitter)

Daria Kasatkina and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina have called for VAR to be implemented in tennis.

The calls have came after Andrey Rublev was disqualified from his semi-final with Alexander Bublik in Dubai.

As Bublik lead 6-5 in the final set, Rublev shouted in the face of an umpire allegedly swearing in Russian which was picked up by one of the officials.

This saw Rublev be disqualified from the event with Bublik reaching the final in Dubai.

However as a result of the incident players have called for a VAR review system with the video showing inconclusive proof of whether Rublev did swear in Russian.

Leading the calls for such innovation are Daria Kasatkina and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina as the duo called for VAR to be introduced on twitter, “So you can just disqualify a player, take away all his points and money, without even checking the video? What a joke, yet another confirmation that we need VAR in tennis and an electronic appeal system in all tournaments,” Kasatkina said on social media.

VAR has been implemented in football and also a similar system in rugby with mixed results.

It’s clear though that more technology would help umpires identify whether a grounds for disqualification would be necessary.

So far VAR has been trialled at the Next Gen Finals and the Nitto ATP Finals.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending